A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.Â Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday,Â I present one of McLuhanâ€™s observations and talk about its relevance today.Â 300 ideas. 300 days.Â 300 posts.
Marshall McLuhan (June 15, 1964, age 52).Â Thatâ€™s a good question.
Iâ€™m constantly amazed that anyone at any time can communicate anything to anyone else.Â This morning, for example, Corinne asked me, â€śDo you think this dress makes me look fat?â€ť
â€śWhat do you mean?â€ť said I.
â€śJust what I said.â€ť
â€śWhat was that?â€ť
That I think is pretty typical of conversations between married couples.Â And yet It seems to me that most of us assume that most of the time when we are communicating we are actually communicating even though, of course, weâ€™re doing nothing of the sort.Â The better assumption to make if you want to communicate is to assume youâ€™ll be misunderstood.Â Must run, Iâ€™m being interviewed at the CBC in 30 minutes.Â I wonder where my lucky jacket is?
â€śCorinne?Â Do you know where my tartan jacket is?
â€śThe red or the green?
â€śThe red, of course.â€ť
â€śIn the closet, on the right.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s not there.â€ť
â€śMarshall, if I come up and find it hanging there.â€ť
â€śNever mind.Â Iâ€™ll find it myself.â€ť
Me (February 2010, age 57).Â Thatâ€™s a good answer.
What if you began every conversation with the assumption that it was highly unlikely that you would be able to get your message across instead of the assumption that it was highly likely that your message would be understood?Â You might want to keep a mental diary today, I know I will, to keep note of the number of successful and unsuccessful conversations you have – successful meaning understood and unsuccessful meaning misunderstood.Â So far, as I write this, itâ€™s early in the day and Iâ€™m 1 for 2.
Are misunderstandings more or less likely at home or at work?Â In which setting are you more likely to assume you will be understood?
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Reading for this post
Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p.303